Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Opeth, Moonspell and DevilDriver, January 23 at the Commodore Ballroom
I was really looking forward to this show. Opeth have been my favourite currently active metal band for about eight years now, and finally they were coming to town. Circumstances intervened, however, and I didn't quite get the show I was expecting.

Devildriver's frontman had an American flag hanging out his back pocket and played up the working class hero angle with the crowd. I didn't hear any songs, though.

The singer for Portugal's Moonspell had a really peculiar accent and looked like a gangly cross between Nick Cave and Hugo Weaving. He faced down a patch of raised middle fingers sprouting from the pit and helped his band gradually win over a fair portion of the crowd. Their midtempo goth metal isn't really my bag anymore (bands like Tiamat and Samael released classic albums in this style, back when we hadn't heard it all before), but their songs came across pretty well. "Opium" is a pretty decent stomper.

With drummer Martin Lopez having flown home, apparently panic stricken over the thought of touring in the land of donut shops and Don Cherry (or more specifically, the land of Ralph Klein and Gordon Campbell), Opeth were in a tight spot. Their drum roadie was behind the kit when they began the concert with a set from Damnation (opening with “In My Time of Need”) and a Deep Purple cover—“Soldier of Fortune” (from the Coverdale-era Stormbringer). Singer/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt explained the situation well, and the crowd was very forgiving. He joked at one point that they had tried to teach “Black Rose Immortal” (the Morningrise album's nearly 20-minute centrepiece) to the drum tech, but they only had half an hour to do it. Despite the focus on the exclusively mellow new album, I was more than happy. Damnation contained some of the finest songs I heard last year.

After a set of “softies,” as Mikael described them, transplanted local boy Gene Hoglan came on and they did two more songs: “The Drapery Falls” and “Demon of the Fall.” This is what the crowd had been waiting for—some proper Opeth epics. Everyone was well into it, and Mikael's first death vox got a huge cheer. Mikael commented that Gene had nailed the first song in one take during soundcheck; he got the other song in two takes. Come showtime, Gene was bang on.

And that was it—half a set from 3/4 of the band. They appeared as upset about the situation as the crowd was, but overall the gig had a good vibe, truncated as it was. They held an autograph session at the merch table afterwards, but I didn’t stick around for that. I guess I’ll get a more complete impression of what Opeth can do live when I get my hands on the Lamentations DVD. I finally got to see them in the flesh, though, and that counts for a lot.

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